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Lifewire / Emily Ramirez
Vibrant, loud speakers
Tiny design at 6.8 x 6.6 x 9.2 inches
Looks beautiful and blends in to surroundings
Its Intel Core i5-7400T is a little underpowered for the price
The sound could use stronger bass
The HP Pavilion Wave is a unique PC—it aims to replace your old speakers and your old desktop. If you need a PC for your home theater, then the Wave is perfect.
The HP Pavilion Wave was made for people who know the beauty of simplicity. For those looking to minimize the apparatuses clogging their cluttered desk or console, the Pavilion Wave gives them the opportunity to chuck their bulky desktop PC and their dusty speakers. The Pavilion Wave’s integrated Bang & Olfusen speakers produce amazing, clear, deep sound, but it is a little lacking on the low end. With enough power for a home movie server, the Pavilion Wave’s loud sound is particularly attractive for a home theater.
Without a doubt, the most unique part about the Pavillion Wave is its appearance. It blends into your living space and tries to masquerade as a high-end Bluetooth speaker (and for the most part, it succeeds). The outside is a plush cloth cover over a triangular prism. On the front, there’s a big B&O logo, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a USB 3.0 port. We’ll get back to that B&O logo.
On the back, there’s a long line of ports and buttons, and I appreciate the diversity of ports in such a small machine. But we do feel that you may struggle without an external USB dock to extend your number of plugged devices.
The top of the Pavillion Wave seems to levitate over the rest of the body, looking like an oversized guitar pick. In the gap are vents to let the PC breathe and allow sound to leak out.
Now, let’s get back to that B&O logo! B&O is short for Bang & Olfusen, a high-end audio company that specializes in powerful, accurate, beautiful audio gear. HP teamed up with Bang & Olfusen to make the Pavilion Wave a respectable speaker with a microphone for Amazon Alexa and Windows Cortana, and that partnership is reflected in the high-quality audio the Wave is capable of producing.
The inside of the machine is hard to reach—there are no visible screws or detachable panels. Unfortunately, this means you probably won’t be able to upgrade this PC yourself, but the internal components will last you a while before they need replacing. Our test model has an Intel Core i5-7400T processor, 8GB RAM, 1 TB hard drive, and a 256GB SSD, plenty of horsepower for a media server (though a bit light for a dedicated, full-time desktop).
The wave doesn’t have a discrete graphics card, so the i5-7400T may prove a little weak for hardcore gaming, but it is powerful enough to do light photo and video editing. Because the chassis is so small, it also lacks an internal power supply. Instead, the Wave comes with an external power brick like a modern laptop.
The Pavilion Wave also comes with a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard. They come pre-paired with the Wave out of the box, which is a nice touch. The keyboard is a small, aluminum-framed membrane board that harkens back to Apple’s iconic deck. The membrane switches are flat and soft, but it’s a comfortable keyboard for use casually on a couch. It charges via micro-USB, so you won’t have to worry about battery.
Without a doubt, the most unique part about the Pavillion Wave is its appearance.
The mouse, however, is a bit lackluster. Again, HP takes some design notes from Apple: the Wave mouse has a floating head with a scroll wheel but no dedicated left or right click buttons. Clicking felt mushy and slow, and it was rather uncomfortable to hold. Yes, it looks pretty and avant-garde, but peripherals should always place ergonomics first. The mouse runs on AAA batteries, so you can just swap them out when the mouse dies.
Setting up the HP Pavilion Wave is very easy. Plug the power brick in and make sure your peripherals are turned on. Boot the PC, follow the Windows 10 setup prompts, and boom: you’re good to go! There’s no cable management or speaker set up, making this easier to set up than 90% of Windows PCs. Just remember to plug in your monitor and you’re set.
The Pavilion Wave is squarely a home theater and typist’s PC. Its Core i5-7400T is enough to handle most entertainment and productivity tasks, but it’s not the best choice for a video editor’s desk. It’s designed to handle movie watching, spreadsheets, and web browsing. If you want to push the machine, it can handle something like Photoshop, but we wouldn’t want to edit on a 4K display. When we tested some PC games on it, we saw some disappointing performance, but that’s expected from integrated graphics—you won’t get more than 20 FPS out of a performance-intensive game like The Witcher 3, but you can comfortably play less demanding titles, like Stardew Valley or Celeste.
Our benchmark results confirm the feel of our anecdotal experience with the Pavilion Wave. Cinebench, a scene render test, was a bit much for the Wave to handle, but it did well in simulated productivity tasks in PCMark 10. Rendering GFXBench cutscenes at 4K was an exercise in futility, with the outmatched Wave managing to render 4.5 frames per second during the Car Chase scene. If you want more details on the benchmark results, see the chart below.
4.46 FPS @ 4K
23.08 FPS @ 1080
20.32 FPS @ 4K
103.70 FPS @ 1080p
Our benchmark results confirm the feel of our anecdotal experience with the Pavilion Wave.
Because it’s perhaps the only PC whose entire body acts as a speaker, it has some of the best sound available from a desktop. The Wave produces beautiful, crisp trebles and mids that carry across a modestly-sized living room. Because of the speaker’s small size it lacks thunderous bass, but it still sounds nice for Youtube videos, dialogue, or other casual listening. If you want a faithful music experience, we recommend you connect the Wave to some solid stereo speakers.
Its 3.5mm headphone jack produces clear, accurate audio with little distortion, so headphones should sound precise. Its microphone is very sensitive, making the Wave suitable for Skype calls or Alexa orders when you’re on the opposite end of the room as the Wave. It records sound about as well as any smartphone, so you’ll be covered if you just want to teleconference, but again, if you need a machine for serious recording you should invest in a dedicated microphone setup.
The HP Pavilion Wave sells for about $750. It’s a bit overpriced for the included hardware, but that’s because it’s a totally unique product that also doubles as a speaker. Buying a PC with similar components and an analogous speaker would cost you about as much or more than the Wave. If you’re not strapped for cash and prioritize a minimalist aesthetic in your office or living room, the Wave is a great option.
It’s a bit overpriced for the included hardware, but that’s because it’s a totally unique product that also doubles as a speaker.
Apple Mac Mini: If you want a powerful PC with a small footprint, the Mac Mini is a great alternative. It’s about the size of your wallet and at least as powerful as the Pavilion Wave, although that power comes at a premium (the Intel Core i5-8500 SKU is $1099).
Dell OptiPlex 3060 Micro PC: The Dell Optiplex 3060 is another awesome choice in the small PC market, and it only costs around $629 for similar specifications.
Admittedly, if you want an okay speaker that happens to also be a decent PC, the Pavilion Wave is basically your only option. It’s a truly unique product, so we commend HP for innovating.
Want to take a look at more reviews? Check out our guide to the best mini PCs.
An interesting compromise.
The HP Pavilion Wave is undoubtedly one of the most unique desktop PCs on the market, thanks to its innovative chassis that broadcasts sound across an entire room. For around $750, the Pavilion Wave is a great product for a home theater, or for minimalists who want to shed extra devices. You can safely store your old speakers and PC for the Wave’s B&O-pedigree sound, just don’t expect to do anything too computationally intense.
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